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From A Source Book of London history from the Earliest Times to 1800 edited by P. Meadows, London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd, 1914; pp. 37-40.


YEAR 1319 A. D.

Constitutions for the Government of the City.

These articles were drawn up by the citizens and submitted to Edward II. for his approval, which he duly gave in exchange for £1,000. It is clear that there had been dissensions in the city; the officials had been endeavouring to obtain favour at Court, and in doing so they had acted, as the citizens alleged, against their interests. The mayor, when it suited the interests of the City magistrates, was re-elected at pleasure; the citizens were taxed in an oppressive manner while the magistrates are stated to have lowered their own assessments. The citizens were unable to obtain satisfactory redress from the King’s judges, and proposed these new constitutions, which were accepted by the King and afterwards incorporated into the charter of Richard II. It is to be noted that henceforth the only way to the civic franchise was by becoming a member of the civic gilds.

Edward, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, to all to who the present letters shall have come, greeting.

Know ye, that whereas our beloved and faithful the mayor and aldermen, and the other citizens of our city of London, had lately ordained and appointed among themselves for the bettering of the same city, and for the common benefit of such as dwell in that city, and resort to the same, certain things to be in the same city perpetually observed, and had instantly besought us that we would take care to accept and confirm the same.


We having seen certain letters, patentwise, signed with the common seal of that city, and the seal of the office of the mayoralty of that city, upon the premises, and to us exhibited, have caused certain articles to be chosen out of the foresaid letters, and caused them in some thing to be corrected, as they are underneath inserted, viz.

1.  That the mayor and sheriffs of the same city be elected by the citizens of the said city, according to the tenor of the charters of our progenitors, heretofore kings of England, made to them thereby, and not otherwise.

2.  That the mayor remain only one year together in his mayoralty.

3.  That sheriffs have but two clerks and two sergeants; and that they take such for whom they will answer.

4.  That the mayor have no other office belonging to the city, but the office of mayoralty; nor draw to himself the sheriff’s plea in the chamber of London, nor hold other pleas than those the mayor, according to ancient custom, ought to hold.

5.  That the aldermen be removed from year to year, on the day of St. Gregory the Pope, and not re-elected; and others chosen by the same wards. . . .

7.  That no stranger be admitted into the freedom of the city in the husting; and that no inhabitant, and especially English merchant, of any mistery or trade, be admitted into the freedom of the city, unless by surety of six honest and sufficient men of the mistery or trade that he shall be of, who is so to be admitted into the freedom; which six men may undertake for him, of keeping the city indemnified in that behalf. And that the same form of surety be observed of strangers to be admitted into the freedom of the husting, if they be of any certain mistery or trade. And if they are not of some certain mistery, then that they be not admitted into the freedom without the assent of the commonalty. And that they who have been taken into the freedom of the city (since we undertook the government of the realm) contrary to the forms prescribed, and they who have gone contrary to their oath in this behalf, 39 or contrary to the state of the city, and are thereof lawfully convicted, lose the freedom of the said city.

Saving always, that concerning apprentices the ancient manner and form of the said city be observed.

8.  That each year in the same city, as often as need shall be, inquiry be made, if any of the freedom of the same city exercise merchandises in the city, of the goods of others not of the same freedom, by calling those goods their own, contrary to their oath, and contrary to the freedom of the said city; and they that are lawfully convicted thereof to lose the freedom of the said city. . . .

12.  That weights and scales of merchandises to be weighed between merchants and merchants, the issues coming of which belong to the commonalty of the said city, remain in the custody of honest and sufficient men of the same city, expert in that office, and as yet to be chosen by the commonalty, to be kept at the will of the same commonalty; and that they be by no means committed to others than those so to be chosen. . . .

14.  Merchants who are not of the freedom of the city, not to sell, by retail wines or other wares, within the city or suburbs. . . .

16.  That the common harbourers in the city and suburbs, although they are not of the freedom of the same, be partakers of the contingent burdens for maintaining the said city, according to the state of it, as long as they shall be so common harbourers, as other like dwellers in the city and suburbs shall partake, on account of those dwellings. Saving always, that the merchants of Gascony, and other foreigners, may, one with another, inhabit and be harboured in the said city, as hitherto they have accustomed to do.

17.  That the keeping the bridge of the said city, and the rents and profits belonging to that bridge, be committed to be kept to two honest and sufficient men of the city, other than the aldermen, to be chosen to this by the commonalty, at the will of the said commonalty, and not to others, and who may answer thereupon to the said commonalty. . . .

20.  That the goods of the aldermen, in aids, tallages, and 40 other contributions, concerning the said city, be taxed by the men of the wards in which these aldermen abide, as the goods of other citizens, by the said wards.

Which articles, as they are above expressed, and the matters contained in the same, we accept, approve, and ratify; and we yield and grant them, for us and our heirs, as much as in us is, to the aforesaid citizens, their heirs and successors, in the aforesaid city and suburbs, for the common profit of those that inhabit therein, and resort thither, to obtain the same, and to be observed perpetually.

Moreover, we, willing to show ampler grace to the mayor, aldermen and citizens, at their request have granted to them, for us and our heirs, that the mayor, aldermen, citizens, and commonalty of the commoners of the city, and their heirs and successors, for the necessities and profits of the same city, may, among themselves of their common assent assess tallages upon their own goods within that city, as well upon the rents as other things; and as well upon the misteries as any other way, as they shall see expedient, and levy them, without incurring the danger of us or our heirs, or our ministers whomsoever. And that the money coming from such tallages remain in the custody of four honest and lawful men of the said city, to be chosen to this by the commonalty, and be laid out, of their custody, for the necessities and profits of the said city, and not otherwise, In witness whereof, etc.

Witness the King, at York, the eighth day of June,

in the twelfth year of our reign.


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